Interview: Fly Nowhere, the leaders of creative football projects
We’ve had the pleasure to talk with Ted Philipakos and Diego Moscosoni from Fly Nowhere, a creative agency and design studio driven by sports and culture. Their work is recognized worldwide, as they have made out-of-the-box projects with some of the biggest clubs in the world.
When did Fly Nowhere start? What was the original idea behind the project when it was launched? How has it changed through out the years? Why it is called ‘Fly Nowhere’?
Philipakos: Diego and I are both from New York but we finally connected in Europe. I started my career in football as a player agent, later became a professor of sports business, and eventually moved to Europe as a club executive, serving as CEO at Italian clubs Venezia FC and AC Reggiana — and Diego was hired to do creative consulting at both of those clubs.
After an ownership change at Reggiana, we decided to create an official agency; by this time, we had already been approached by and on the side completed several projects for brands like AS Roma, Inter Milan and PSG. Over time we’ve developed a unique niche, and in that space we’ve been able to work with a very diverse range of clients, from Venezia FC to C.P. Company to Manifesta Biennial to EA Sports, among others.
What has been the game-changer project that took Fly Nowhere to the next level?
Moscosoni: It’s hard to make a claim that we’ve done any game-changer projects, and we don’t really believe in fast success. We look at the long effort that builds influence over time. We’ve been creating public football-meets-culture/fashion projects in New York since 2010: street leagues with adidas; a Football Cafe; a Fly Nowhere art gallery; countless pop-up exhibits with Nike and others in Italy and Japan; and we’ve hand-dyed and gifted thousands of Nowhere FC kits. We’ve sent items to dozens of countries and benefitted from the emergence of the smart phone era so this is shared globally, and speeding up.
After a decade of this you can see that the trickle-up of influence has seeped into the way Nike, adidas, and the big clubs design and think. The football world in 2021 is looking more aesthetically and culturally similar to how the New York City football world looked since 2014. Our country may not produce the best academies or players, but for DIY footbal clubs, street culture or brand and marketing collaborations, New York is the global leader. Brands like Supreme, Alife, and the NY music industry pioneered a lot of these ideas when I was still a teenager. NY of the last 40 years has birthed the architecture for most modern sub-culture and style that have spread all over the world, this is not really much different. Our diversity of cultures and fast-paced environment creates innovation. We just brought our NY way into European football, which is traditionally years behind the American entertainment and culture worlds. But the point is, this is years of work, not a button-push for hype, and it’s barely started.
Could you tell us about the Venezia FC project? How it started, what fields have you worked in with the team and what have been the biggest challenges?
Philipakos: As I mentioned, this is our second stint with the club. Our first was 2016/17; in that season, we planted the early seeds for a brand transformation, and the team earned promotion back to Serie B for the first time in many years. We moved on to another project because of some ownership-level turbulence, let’s say, and once that was settled we were invited back. We have the challenge to compete with Serie A clubs off the pitch, attracting new global supporters — but with a Serie B budget. We’re responsible for directing the brand, marketing, media, design, and partnerships. We don’t have the benefit of major television distribution and matches against Juve and Inter. But the city of Venezia is a sacred place. One of the most iconic and revered places in the world. So we have a unique story to tell, regardless of whether we are in Serie A or Serie D.
Could you tell us about the Nowhere FC project? How it started, what were the ideas behind creating an artificial club and how it was to work with EA Sports for the most important football video game ever?
Moscosoni: This was the beginning of our world, and it’s evolving. It started in 2010 while I was collaborations designer for LVMH, and we were attempting to enter our Marc Jacobs football team into the adidas Fanatic tournament, an annual NYC event since 2001 featuring fashion brand, restaurant, hotel, and creative agency teams, among others. This eventually evolved into the adidas Fanatic weekly league, then the adidas Tango league. By then we had three teams in weekly games in Downtown NY street leagues, at the world famous Lions Gate Field in Chinatown, with ex-European pros and American collegiate-level players, mixed with street ballers from the outer boroughs, in a seven-a-side format.
Eventually we took two storefronts facing the half-line of Lions Gate, creating the Football Cafe and Fly Nowhere gallery. This became a meeting place for our club and the football community. As the pace of real estate development changes in NY, we eventually had to give up the spaces, but by then our club had evolved into the fully digital world; remember, when we started in 2010, Instagram didn’t exist yet. Also, huge clubs and brands were hiring us to build Nowhere FC tricks for them, so the line between fantasy club and 100-year old club became blurred. It’s amazing how far the world and football culture have changed in 10 years.
EA Sports was a great next step to take our club into the hypothetical, social, and digital future, and maybe kids from all over the world can build NwFC with us. I’m the artificial football Manager, for now, I’m sure someone better will come along one day and take it further.
How and why has a digital agency/creative studio entered the player representation environment with Lille OSC player Jonathan David?
Philipakos: Football is a subset of broader entertainment and culture. The careers of athletes are not that different to other entertainers, in terms of developing their personal brands and commercial opportunities. A star-in-the-making like Jo David will be looking to do collaborations, will be looking to explore new ways to connect with his audience, to tell the unique story of a Haitian-Canadian footballer in Europe, as he grows into his position. We’re here to support him.
Could you give us any hint of any future projects you are working in?
Moscosoni: Our group is always investigating into new concepts, especially things that advance football globally, across borders, or involve bringing the low-level and pro-level together. You’ll have to wait and see where this goes, although the next release is close, check back around St. Patrick’s Day, perhaps in Ireland.